Holidays tend to prompt an uptick in heart failures mostly due to patients indulging in high salt, processed foods, and alcohol when their heart just cannot take it. While post-Thanksgiving heart failures are most prominently seen, it is a regular occurrence after each holiday, physicians say.
“We equate love with treats and treats do not keep us healthy,” said Karen Wiarda, DO, Carle Heart and Vascular Institute in Mattoon. “Processed foods, shrimp, barbecue sauce are all high in salt. Salt is everywhere so you have to be diligent,” she said.
Too much salt is too much sodium and that leads to water retention, high blood pressure and heart problems. Adults should have less than a teaspoon of salt a day and that includes the salt already built into the food you eat. “People do not realize how bad processed food is,” Wiarda said.
Haseeb Basha, MD, Carle Cardiology, said the best diet is less red meat, more greens, less processed food and include dry nuts, except cashews or peanuts.
They both said fruit is a good option because it is rich in potassium, filling, provides fiber and brings down blood pressure.
“Even patients without heart failure who follow this diet can decrease their risk of heart disease, stroke and even cancer,” he said.
Basha also pointed out that the heart and kidneys are closely linked so what is bad for the heart is bad for the kidneys as well.
Combine bad food choices with a sedentary lifestyle and high stress and your body suffers, he said.
Wiarda said once people begin indulging it is difficult to stop for two or three days, but being aware and eating with mindfulness helps retrain the brain about what the body needs to feel satisfied.
“Eating whole foods is a good start,” she said. Include an hour of walking a day and the risk of heart failure is cut in half, Wiarda added.
Kristina Adams-Smith, Carle dietitian, recommends the following mindful tips for holiday weekends:
- Keep healthy snacks available at home to offset other high-calorie options.
- Pack snacks to take to events so you have healthy options to choose.
- Make a schedule of events for you and your family, so you will be able to plan meals accordingly to avoid overindulging.
- Don’t skip meals; eat healthy snacks more frequently.
- Stay hydrated with water and other no-calorie drinks.
- Use some convenience items to cut time – choose lower- to no-sodium options when available.
- Use measuring cups/utensils or smaller plates to control portion sizes.
To learn more about what Carle can do for heart patients, visit out website to learn more about the Heart and Vascular Institute.